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Rediff.com  » Business » This is the century of innovation, Krishna tells USIBC

This is the century of innovation, Krishna tells USIBC

Last updated on: June 02, 2010 23:12 IST
The India-United States Business Council celebrated its 35th anniversary in Washington, DC, where Indian External Affairs Minister S M Krishna spoke about Indo-US business ties and the long way that the two countries had travelled together. Founded in 1975, the council is dedicated to fostering better trade ties beteween the largest and the oldest democracies in the world. 

Terry McGraw, Chairman of the India-US Business Council, Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo,Ron Sommers, President of the USIBC, William Cohen, Chairman, Cohen Group ,
I am glad to be here among you all in Washington, DC, which brings back nostalgic memories of long years back. Many of those who witnessed those years are still excited about those times.Shephard Hill, President of Boeing International, Thank you for your warm words of introduction.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am especially pleased to join you in celebrating 35 years of the US India Business Council – and in recognizing the contribution of many pioneering entrepreneurs like those present here today, who have built the strong, resilient edifice of the India US bilateral economic partnership. Their vision and leadership achieved a mutually beneficial synergy that bridges distances, spans the oceans that lie between us and enriches the bilateral economic discourse in a way that just was not imaginable 35 years ago. Terry Mc Graw, I congratulate you and the past and present members of the USIBC.

As Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh said in this very building a few months ago, "In today's economically integrated world, economic relationships constitute the bedrock on which social, cultural and political relationships are built."

The India-US example, similarly, draws its strength not merely from engagement and understanding between governments, but from the vitality of private partnerships and the warmth of ties between our peoples. .

Ladies and gentlemen, the 20th century was a century of capital accumulation; the 21st Century will be the Century of innovation.

We see this in India – where we are presently witnessing a revolution of entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation. It has made our manufacturing sector modern and globally competitive through market-induced "frugal engineering". It has made our services sector a powerful instrument of modernization and a major source of exports. And, it is turning India into a global hub for innovation, design and development and manufacturing.

India's responsible corporate sector is a key player in our innovation initiative. Three years ago, the State Bank of India found a low cost and easy-to-operate solution for banking in remote areas of India. The "Tiny Branch", as the State Bank of India called it, costs a little over US $ 300 per branch and is made up of a mobile phone and a finger print scanner. This set can hold data of up to 50,000 customers, can record details in 11 languages and is operated by women recruited at village level. Furthermore, the devices work on battery using solar energy. State Bank of India hopes to install 250,000 of these tiny branches across Indian villages.

Around the same time one of our foremost Indian corporates came out with a no profit rice husk based water purifier. At a onetime cost of 20 US Dollars and a recurring expense of 6 US Dollars every 3000 litres, this is an example of an affordable innovation for safe drinking water across village and middle class urban homes in India, reducing cost but increasing efficiency as well. Being natural, it is a 'green' filter. Even the advertising is door to door and by word of mouth in order to keep the project cost low. They are, of course, presently fielding inquiries from developed and developing markets.

Ladies and gentlemen, India has already created successful business models and price innovations; for example, when designing the Nano, Tata was able to save production costs with their "design to cost" strategy, by challenging its vendors to come up with supplies under pre-set price caps. Similarly, Titan produced the World's slimmest water resistant watch, and I believe even the Swiss are very impressed! A product like the small car or a portable low cost ECG machine are powerful examples of global capabilities applied to local needs, and have great potential in other markets.

Governments in India have ensured that the rural and agriculture sectors are prioritised in our developmental plans for inclusive growth - and today, we see the fruits of that policy - as some of the most exciting developments are taking place in the extensive rural markets of India, and a significant part of the growth impulse is coming from this sector.

Using satellite imagery, internet and computers and supported by novel financing methods, villages and rural communities in India are developing better resource mapping, better prices for their products and they are improving their access to a range of services from farming know-how and education to healthcare and insurance.

The focus in all the above has been towards innovation with a specific purpose. The net result is a broader outreach and inclusion from the grass-roots upwards, making India the ideal place for locating such innovation which depends on technology and a broad based and diverse spread in all sectors of the economy and market.

Encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship, by engaging the medium – sized companies in US and India is another priority. Foreign Direct Investments now are a two-way traffic, with United States being one of the leaders in investments in India. A growing number of patents of US companies are coming out of their Indian operations. And, the nature of our business ties has brought people together in an unprecedented manner that has had a profound impact on overall relationship. I observed the transformation at its earliest stages from close quarters as Chief Minister of Karnataka.

The present opportune environment has been recognised early by the private sectors in both our countries. Drawing on India's substantial knowledge base, US high-technology firms are increasingly finding it attractive to conduct advanced research and development in India. Out of Fortune 500 companies, around 200 have set up research and development base in India. India looks to USA for its unmatched scientific output and the ability of converting this strength into wealth-generating innovations. USA also values Indian partnership in the areas of information technology and its applications, biotechnology, nanotechnology, medicine, advanced material, high-energy physics etc.

India-US partnerships are now looking at providing low cost, efficient healthcare services to remote areas through mobile clinics, tele-medicine etc. Both countries can work together in streamlining health based IT solutions such as digitizing health records, joint research and collaboration in drug discovery, medical research and clinical trials.

Several institutional mechanisms exist such as the Indo-U.S. Science and Technology Forum, established in 2000, and Indo-US S&T Umbrella Agreement signed in 2005 and the India-US Bi-National S&T Commission.

In recognition of the importance of innovation in meeting our economic goals, Government of India has declared the decade of 2010-2020 the decade of innovation. Our Ministry of Commerce has recently announced a single FDI policy document to facilitate foreign investors.

Ladies and Gentlemen, as the Indian economy grows, as the global economy recovers and the US economy regains its momentum, our trade and investment figures can multiply exponentially. We must go beyond that, make innovation the defining principle of our cooperation, and achieve its true potential. Indian and American businesses have a proven track record of partnership in innovation. From civil nuclear cooperation to 'Chandrayaan' and FutureGen, the bonds between our engineers, scientists, entrepreneurs and innovators can make a major contribution to shaping the 21st century in every area of human endeavour - in science, in tracking monsoons, for warning of natural disasters, guiding cultivators and farmers with environment predictability, crossing frontiers in e-learning, e-health and bringing about the e-revolution that one had only imagined a few decades ago.

While we explore the immense opportunities for collaboration, I would also say that we must explore new designs that reduce resource intensity and have a low environmental impact. Clean energy, healthcare, agriculture, science and technology, space and security are just some areas on which we are working to step up India-US collaboration. I would especially emphasise the importance of innovation that places products and services within reach of the weakest and poorest in our societies.

To quote the late Prof C.K. Prahalad whose untimely passing we deeply mourn, the prospective rewards would be, "growth, profits and incalculable contribution to humankind".

As a young law student in this country, who witnessed the historic 'Apollo' launch to the moon, and having personally expedited the IT revolution from Bangalore, I am absolutely confident that the emphasis, going forward, must be on the India-US partnership in high technology cooperation and innovation that will generate prosperity for both our peoples in the years to come.

Indian importers have a 100% compliance record when it comes to safeguarding imported technology – we have been implementing the End-Use Verification Agreement with US partners for years now – and have, last year, agreed to a Technical Safeguards Agreement in space co-operation. We also have the End Use Monitoring arrangement for defence acquisitions. We have given a number of written assurances that US technology will enjoy the level of security stipulated by the relevant US laws and not be diverted in contravention of US regulations.

With this background and the trust that we have built as strategic partners, we should be able to create an environment for a robust two way trade in advanced technology products.

I have received some feedback on areas of particular interest to members present here – foremost is the implementation of the historic Civil Nuclear Agreement between our two countries signed in 2008. We are well within the agreed timelines. Of course, the Government is committed to put in place a nuclear liability regime. We look forward to US companies investing in India. Many of you are in dialogue with our companies already. We would like it to be as robust a partnership as we have both envisioned.

I am confident that our economic partnership holds immense potential for the prosperity of our two countries and for invigorating the strategic partnership between our two countries.

Tomorrow, I will join Secretary Hillary Clinton, for the first India-US strategic dialogue at the ministerial level. We will discuss many areas in which we have shared interests–ranging from countering terrorism and extremism, advancing nuclear security, working to secure the global commons, seeking to build a developed and cooperative Asia, and succeeding in Afghanistan to dialogues for co-operation in science and technology, research for clean energy and monsoon prediction, health and education, and a dialogue on women's empowerment . That will be an important occasion for us to reflect on the remarkable journey that our two great democracies have embarked upon, and to set our sights on new milestones.

Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you all for your exceptional contribution to the splendid successes that we have been able to achieve due to your efforts, and due to your goodwill. I would like to assure you that it is heartily reciprocated in India. We look forward to ever more brilliant achievements and joint successes as our scientist, engineers and business and industry forge new paths as they progress in their co-operation.

Image:  External Affairs Minister SM Krishna speaks at the USIBC meet in Washington DC.

Photograph: Jay Mandal